Thursday, April 5, 2007

Chiang Kai-Shek and Clinton

Interesting review of Laura Tyson Li's Madame Chiang Kai-Shek: China's Eternal First Lady:

An intelligent and outspoken young woman enrolls at Wellesley College, where she impresses her classmates with her ambition and annoys a few with her outsized sense of entitlement. After graduation, she marries a rising political figure who eventually becomes a national leader. She, too, is soon wielding power behind the scenes, and eventually her husband puts her in charge of a new national program, making her a more visible public figure but also a target for critics who resent her unaccountability when the program proves an embarrassing failure. Beloved by some and reviled by others, she always insists that her goal is to promote democracy, even though she is also clearly perfecting the art of promoting herself. When her husband's embattled tenure comes to an end, she quickly reinvents herself as a political figure in her own right.

This is not the life of Hillary Rodham Clinton. It is that of Mayling Soong, better known by her married name, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek. Powerful women are often unlucky in their biographers, but in her engaging book, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek: China's Eternal First Lady, Laura Tyson Li ably describes the life of this indomitable little woman who "was a seamless alloy of Southern belle, New England bluestocking, and Chinese tai-tai, or matron." Born in 1897, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek died in comfortable exile in New York at the age of 105, having witnessed two world wars and countless years of civil strife in her Chinese homeland.

Probably a more telling comparison than the author intends. Perhaps we can overthrow the autocratic Chiang Kai-Shek/Bush and/or his associates and elect a Mao/Clinton. Worked wonders for the Chinese.

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